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Since creating "Where's the Fire?", our interactive fire education experience in collaboration with Liberty Mutual at Epcot, we have been fortunate to see many fire service organizations holding their meetings at Walt Disney World Resort. Last year, I met Chief Randy Bruegman during a Commission on Fire Accreditation (CFAI) board members' conference there. Readers know how much I believe in the good work and effectiveness of CFAI. Every time I write about CFAI and measuring the success of a fire department's effectiveness, I receive well over 100 e-mails.
I asked Bruegman to answer key questions relating to marketing through his successful efforts with the department in Fresno, CA, Fire Department. My purpose was to understand how one of the top chiefs in the country sees marketing's application to the fire service, especially to his department.
Bruegman began his career in the fire service as a volunteer firefighter in Nebraska. In 1979, he was hired by Fort Collins, CO, as a firefighter and later served as engineer, inspector, lieutenant, captain and battalion chief. He was fire chief for the City of Campbell, CA, the Village of Hoffman Estates, IL, and Clackamas County, OR, Fire District 1 before becoming chief of the Fresno Fire Department since September 2003. Bruegman has served as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and is president of board of trustees of CFAI. He has an associate's degree in fire science, a bachelor's degree in business, and a master's degree in management. Bruegman is the author of Exceeding Customer Expectations: Quality Concepts for the Fire Service (Prentice Hall/Brady Fire), in which he sets the standards for how a fire department can deal with change as it enhances its services to meet the needs of citizens.
As president of CFAI, Bruegman is creating a strong organization that is making one of the more significant contributions to our nation's fire protection system. In the short time I have known him, I have found him to be on the forefront of progressive leadership. He is consistently striving to lead the fire service to ever higher standards of quality. He never stands still, knowing very well that the market is always a moving target and change is constant.
Established in 1877, the Fresno Fire Department is one of the oldest fire departments in the United States, rich in history and tradition. Over the past 20 years, it has had to do more with less. In 1980, with a population of 180,000 in a service area of 80 square miles, the department had over 300 firefighters. Today, it serves a population of 470,000 covering over 110 square miles with 353 permanent positions and responding to more than 32,000 incidents annually.
The department has received national recognition for its innovative and progressive approach to alternate methods of providing municipal fire protection, such as a municipal fire sprinkler ordinance. Recently, it gained approval for the inclusion of sprinkler in kitchens in all new construction and full systems in all multi-family residences starting with three units and in single-family homes over 5,000 square feet.
Firehouse: As a chief, how have you come to understand the term "marketing" and its uses for the fire service?
Bruegman: Many times in the fire service, we get confused in respect to the difference between education and marketing. We believe if we have a quality educational outreach throughout our community, it serves as the basis for marketing the department. I don't believe this is the case. Marketing takes a much different approach. Although it has an educational aspect, marketing is the means by which you get the broad goals and objectives out from a community-wide perspective. Also, it educates the community about the department's key strategic initiatives. It is the "top of the mind" awareness of what your organization is doing that you are trying to translate through effective marketing in your community.